Milan face Inter at Stadio San Siro on Sunday night (20:45 CET kickoff), and Bart’s scouting report will help you know what to expect from the opponents.
Inter by the Numbers
– 6th in shots per game (16.1)
– 7th in shots allowed per game (11.9)
– 11th in aerial wins per game (14.8)
– 11th in fouls per game (13.2)
– 1st in goals allowed on set-pieces (2)
– 2nd in goals from set-pieces (12)
Inter runs a basic but well-polished offense and it does not take long to figure them out. They use quick short passes through the middle to build up and advance the ball. Once nearing the attacking third they knock the ball wide and look for crossing options. Expect to see a lot of ball movement through the middle and their attacking opportunities coming almost entirely from the crosses.
While Inter may run a basic offense, there are several reasons it’s effective. First and foremost, Inter have excellent movement off the ball through their buildup play. The three center midfielders run off of each other constantly and the wingers do a great job of providing options out wide. This movement off the ball makes them unpredictable, hard to mark, and allows for them to easily break down midfields and get into the attacking third.
Additionally, Inter is great at making space out wide to send in crosses, this factor is only made more dangerous with the presence of a target man like Icardi. They also do a good job of making variant runs into the box to confuse defenders. Expect to see a midfielder hold at the top of the box so wingers can make a grounded pass into the middle if the cross is off.
In contrast, Inter’s offense is run very predictably. You can almost guarantee that they will push the ball into the wings when they’re coming down the field. They also do not have a deep bench with their attacking players. Icardi is just coming back from injury and Rafinha hasn’t yet play a full match. Should Icardi not be able to play a full match himself, their offense is far less potent. He needs to be on for Inter to be dangerous moving forward, Éder hasn’t cut it in the last few games.
Transition to Offense
Inter are quick and methodical in transition. As mentioned before they build up through the middle before knocking the ball outside to wingers. Expect to see a lot of movement between the three center midfielders, they do a wonderful job of working off each other to move the ball forward.
While Inter is extremely prone to playing short passes, don’t be shocked if they try and break hard and fast every now and again by knocking the ball down the line to their wingers. This keeps defenses honest and allows them room in the short passing game. Lastly, while D’Ambrosio and Cancelo both have the ability to join the attack, they don’t make a great number of overlapping runs.
Inter have a few things going for them that make for a very strong defense. One of their biggest strengths is the way they press the ball. They run their defense from the top and force the ball out to the wings. Once there, they go into a quick man-marking press where the winger will press the outside back to force a pass. The outside back will mark the opposing player down the line and a center midfielder will pull out wide and mark the short pass option.
They run this press consistently and it tends to be effective at either forcing errant passes or allowing Inter to flat out dispossess opponents. In addition to their press, Inter’s defense is a force in the air. Inter has a large and physical back line and they know how to play to that strength. In their final third they consistently force the ball to the widths so that the only attacking routes in are crosses. This works for them; with their size and aerial abilities, Inter would much rather defend crosses than any other form of attack.
Inter consistently defends with their strengths, which can make for a formidable defense. However, there are two major factors that render them vulnerable. The first is the low work rate from the central midfielders. It isn’t out of the ordinary to see their central midfielders walking back when the team is defending. Obviously, this creates an area in the middle of the pitch in front of the center backs that is open. Teams that attack quickly can often exploit this area.
More importantly, Inter have an unfortunate tendency to ball watch when defending in their third. While Inter presses well and is hard to beat in the air, they sometimes look oblivious to players running off of the ball. Often, wing players can hang around the outside areas unnoticed on the weak side of the pitch. On top of this, Inter’s center backs are not great at marking extra runners.
When opposing teams flood the box, Inter makes mistakes… Just look at the last few goals they conceded against Crotone, SPAL and Genoa. In all of them, Inter left players running around the center of the box wide open and paid for it.
Transition to Defense
This is an area where Inter is relatively average. While they press very well to the outsides, their center midfielders have that ugly tendency not to track back. When opposing teams break, this creates an open spot in the middle of the pitch ahead of the center backs. However, this isn’t a major factor as Inter tend not to throw massive numbers forward.
Set pieces are Inter’s greatest strength. Offensively they have scored a total of 12 goals (2nd in the league) and defensively they have only allowed 2 (1st in the league). On their defensive set pieces, they mark tightly with midfielders and allow for their big men (Škriniar and Miranda) to play zone on the six-yard line. It would take a stroke of brilliance to get the ball by their center backs and Handanović. They’re also a major offensive set piece threat. Expect to see a few players make dummy runs in an attempt to free players like Škriniar and Icardi from their marks. Pay close attention to Škriniar on set pieces, he’s a monster on either side of the ball.
Coming into this match, you would have to consider Milan the favorites. While they may have gone 120 minutes with Lazio, they really have been firing on all cylinders over the past two weeks. In contrast, Inter have put in a number of lackluster performances. Even their win over Benevento was rather unimpressive.
Milan need a force in the middle of the pitch to slow down Inter’s center midfielders’ ability to play off one another. If Kessié can come up like he did against Roma last week then Inter could face serious problems. His play on the ball aside, he does a great job of clogging up the middle.
Additionally, Milan need good hold up play up top in order to let extra players run in on the center backs. If Cutrone isn’t too tired, he should get the nod. But this may be a good game for Silva as well; he does excel in holding the ball up.
Overall, Milan have a great opportunity to add three more points in their race for the Champions League… and what better way to do it than against their rivals?
What are your thoughts on how Milan should approach the match?